Treasures in your change: 20c – What to look for

infographic-smallThe following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

Welcome to the second entry in my ‘Treasures in your change’ series, focusing on rare circulating decimal types that you might find in your change! My last entry – that you can read HERE – was based on the 5c piece and 10c piece, and this one will focus on the 20c piece.

Now, while you may have already seen the informative infographic we posted last week, and pictured to the right, this blog post will go into a bit more detail, pointing out exactly what you need to be looking for while searching through your pocket money.

1966 Wavy Line 20c

1966 Wavy Line 20c

Australia’s first variety takes us back to the beginning of decimal currency, and the highly sought after 1966 Wavy Line 20c. This key type is thus named because the bottom stroke of the 2 in the denomination appears to have a wave at the top, rather than the straight line seen on other 20c coins. To cater for the massive amount of currency required at decimalisation, the then new Royal Australian Mint was joined by Britain’s Royal Mint for the production of 1966 coinage, and it was at the latter that a small number of 20c coins were struck with a slightly different die, creating the Wavy Line 20c variety. Prices for Uncirculated examples have been known to fetch up to $3,000, with even an EF example worth more than $1,000, and, as a result, I routinely check every 20c piece I receive in change. The Royal Mint did strike normal versions of the coin, which brings us to our next collectable variety…

1966 Canberra Mint 20c

1966 Canberra Mint 20c

Although many people are unaware that different mints struck the 1966 20c, knowledgeable collectors do tend to seek out examples from each mint – and there is one quick way to find out if you have a Royal Mint or RAM version in your hand. If you have a look at the water ripples around the platypus, there is a ripple that comes into contact with the right side of its head. This is where the difference between the mint variations will be apparent. A ripple that touches the head of the platypus will indicate the coin is from the Royal Mint, whereas a ripple that has a slight gap between the head will indicate a RAM coin! Both can demand good prices from collectors, so as a rule of thumb, if you get a 1966 20c in change, pay close attention to it!

1981 Three & a Half Claws 20c

1981 Three & a Half Claws 20c

The next 20c in the series to look out for was issued in 1981. In this particular year, industrial action at the Royal Australian Mint saw Australia once again seek the assistance of mints overseas, with Britain’s Royal Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint called into action. Now, while mintage figures from both overseas mints are similar, it is the coins struck at the Royal Canadian Mint that prove most popular with collectors. The Royal Canadian Mint 1981 20c can be distinguished by examining the claws on the left paw of the platypus, located directly under the 2 in the denomination. All other coins from 1981 have 4 claws on the left paw, but coins struck at the Canadian mint have a claw on the far right that appears to be half missing! This distinctive type is consequently known as the ‘Three & a Half Claws’ variety.

1981 Scalloped 20c

1981 Scalloped 20c

No analysis of 20c varieties could possibly ignore the famed 1981 Scalloped 20c. Coming to light late in 1982, this is a VERY RARE coin which, whilst you almost certainly will not have seen in change, you may have read about in one of our previous entries. Assisting the production of Australian 20c coins during the aforementioned industrial action at the RAM, the Royal Mint apparently struck some coins using scalloped blanks intended for use for $2 coins for Hong Kong, for whom it also struck currency. Amazingly, some of these coins made it into circulation!

Although less than 10 examples of this stunning coin have come to light, with the type currently cataloguing at $7,500 in Extremely Fine, who knows whether another one might arise in the future? Always check your change!

Treasures in your change: 5c and 10c – What to look for

5c and 10c ChangeThe following was penned by Downies employee Jimmy…

As you may have seen in my previous blogs (here and here), there are quite a lot of rare, unusual circulating coins that are hotly pursued by collectors. This had a lot of people asking (along with myself), what else should we be looking for in our change? What might some of these circulating oddities be worth?

These questions have inspired a new series of blog posts from me, and, as I continue to search through my change, I will keep you up-to-date about what I’m looking for – and, in turn, what you should keep an eye out for! The coins that will feature in these posts are all found in circulation in Australia, meaning that you, the reader, have just as much chance of finding them as I have! My chances are slightly less now of course, as there are more people out there looking!

I thought I would start from the bottom and work my way up, starting with 5c and 10c. When it comes to Australian circulating coins, it appears that the 5c and 10c coins are the most consistent in terms of quality and lack of errors. This would have partly to do with the fact that there are no commemorative coins issued for either of these two types. The only varieties known are created as a result of die variations.

5c and 10cChronologically, the very first coin that collectors look for would be the 1972 5c piece. There are two possible reasons to keep a look out for this particular year. Firstly, only 8.3 million 5c coins were minted in 1972, well below the number normally minted (ranging from 25.2 million in 1978 to a whopping 305.5 million in 2006). Upon closer inspection of this particular date, it seems that two separate dies were used in the minting. When compared side by side, one coin appears to have a ‘low’ echidna, with the design close to the bottom of the coin, with the other distinguished by a ‘high’ echidna, with a larger space below the design. The ‘low’ echidna appears to be the scarcer of the two types, and is the one to look out for as it will have a slightly higher value than its ‘high’ brother.

For those of you who don’t want to be measuring echidnas, this brings us to a different variation to look out for. One that may be slightly easier to spot (albeit with a magnifying glass) involves Stuart Devlin, the man behind the designs on the majority of Australia’s traditional circulating coinage. More specifically, his initials feature on the very bottom of the 5c reverse design, of which there are three different types – large, small and tiny! While people may not see this as a major collectable, large SD initials on a 1991 dated coin can fetch up to $40 when found – which is a great return on a 5c investment!

Stuart Devlin small and large initialsTwo other key dates to keep an eye out for are 1985 and 1986. Any of our eagle eyed followers would be jumping out of their seats right now yelling “that’s not possible!”, and they would be right. No 5c coins were minted for general circulation in either of these years, and if you find one, it would have come from the 1985 or 1986 Mint Sets from the RAM. Neither date should ever be found in change.

Now we move onto the 10c piece which, unfortunately, does not have much to look out for. Low mintages are our best bet here. The 1985 10c coin, with a mintage of 2 million, and the 2011 10c issue, with a mintage of 1.7 million, are the two gems. Besides those, there are, of course, the mint set only dates of 1986, 1987, 1995, and 1996.

So get out there and start checking your change, but more importantly, check back here soon for my next post in this series, which will focus on the 20c piece!